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May 12, 2008 | by  | in News | [ssba]

AUS offended by Massey’s beauty queen But Salient prints her picture anyway

Massey University graduate and third placewinner at this year’s Miss Universe New Zealand contest, Rhonda Grant, has unwittingly caused a stir in academic circles as a result of a news article appearing on the Massey University website.

The article, originally accompanied by a photo of Grant in a white bikini kneeling in the surf, trumpeted her success at the beauty pageant. Some claim it also served as a promotional tool for Massey University.

The Association of University Staff (AUS) took offence at the article and slammed it as being “one of the most banal news features emanating from a university this year.”

AUS national president, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, described the article as “like the formulaic sort of thing that aspiring beauty queens are expected to say when interviewed on the catwalk.”


After receiving “some” complaints, Massey University spokesman James Gardiner told the New Zealand Herald that the bikini photo was removed from the website. It was deemed inappropriate mere hours after it was put up and replaced with a head-and-shoulders shot.

Gardiner also told the Herald that “celebrating student achievement in all areas of endeavour, be they academic, sporting or cultural, has always been encouraged by Massey University.”

Montgomery claims the article was neither a celebration of “the student’s scholastic achievement nor, one should hope, of Massey University’s ability to train beauty-pageant contestants.”

Miss Universe New Zealand director Val Lott said the criticisms of the AUS were unfounded and played to incorrect stereotypes. Grant, in an interview with Hawke’s Bay Today last month, said her Miss Universe New Zealand experience was both interesting and challenging.

“It’s cool to be rewarded for looking after myself, making the most of the beauty I’ve been given and, most importantly, working on myself from the inside out. I think I am more beautiful inwardly than outwardly and to me that is more important,” she said.

She added that she found it difficult to believe the uproar that had been caused by the photo of her. “I am a bit shocked. It was one lady’s (Montgomery) opinion really.

“I think all she could see was me in a bikini with my hair straight and I just think she should see me for who I am and for what I do for my community.”

With additional reporting from Seonah Choi


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Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

Comments (2)

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  1. ... says:

    I haven’t read the offending article but if the AUS pres is calling it “banal”, I guess they did a pretty piss-poor job of writing it. Rhonda Grant is a genuine over-achiever with looks and a heart in the right place.

    She started Uni at age 16 finishing her degree within a few years. She got a job with the Heart Foundation as a nutritionist and has worked hard to promote healthy eating in schools. Although not of Maori heritage, she speaks fluent Maori and is studying a grad-diploma in health science. She has worked with several bands as a singer and is soon to start up free cooking classes in a lower-socio-economic suburb of Napier. And of course she’s a professional model not to mention all her other interesting points.

    If the offending article really was banal, the author should probably quit their job. But I’m guessing Montgomery is just a dried-up old prude.

    Massey Uni coms person James Gardiner really needs to grow some balls and pull his head out of NZ’s arse (more commonly know as Palmy).

  2. The article wasn’t offensive – it was more the bikini-clad woman on the website. I agree with Maureen Montgomery. Putting a picture like that on the website is, in my view, sexist.

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